The editor shoots Weihrauch’s less well-known, yet superb underlever
Phill Prices tries a Weihrauch HW57, a rifle that had slipped through his net, until now
Over a lifetime of shooting, and with my work in the magazine, I would have said that I knew the Weihrauch range pretty well, but I have to confess that the unusual HW57 model had passed me by. Perhaps it’s because at a quick glance it could be mistaken for the incredibly popular HW77, a rifle that was the mainstay of my shooting life for decades. However, the 57 is a much smaller and lighter rifle than the weighty 77, which I find appealing. It also uses a completely different loading system which has some plus points and some disadvantages compared to the 77. Importantly, it has Weihrauch’s legendary build quality, durability and the fabled Rekord trigger unit that so many of us love and respect.
To load, you pull the under- lever down fully to compress the main spring and cock the trigger. At the same time, a small metal unit pops up from the front of the cylinder automatically. You can then return the cocking lever to its usual position, ensuring that it locks into place. Next, press a pellet into the pop- up loader and then push that back into the action. This is a very safe loading procedure because when any barrel or underlever is in the cocked position it could potentially slam closed and injure you. This is why they must be held firmly during the whole loading process. With the HW57, the underlever is cocked and closed before you need to load the pellet, which is clearly safer.
I’d imagined that the under- lever would return the pop- up, but you need to do it manually, and I think it’s important that you close it fully. If you don’t, the pellet won’t be perfectly in line with the barrel, and it might be damaged as it makes the jump from one to the other. My test gun’s pop- up needed a good firm push to seat fully, and I imagine this is caused by the drag of the seals, which I’d expect to ease when the rifle has had a few tins of pellets through it. By comparison, the HW77 has a sliding breech that allows you to load the pellet directly into the barrel, but does mean that your fingers are inside the mechanism and potentially in danger.
The HW57 comes with open sights, which are unusual in that the rear sight is attached to the scope rail at the back of the action. I find having the rear sight so close to my eye a bit tricky to use, but that didn’t matter, because I fitted a telescopic sight to make the most of the accuracy, as I expect most people
will. The front sight is moulded into the assembly at the muzzle, and that locks the under- lever in place, so is not removable.
So much has been written about Weihrauch’s Rekord trigger that it’s hard to say more, but it remains as adjustable and refined as it ever was when it took the airgun world by storm all those years ago. I’ve always appreciated the fact that it comes as a cartridge that simply locks into the action, and is simple to remove when time comes to service the rifle. It’s fully self- contained, so all your settings remain undisturbed, and as you slip it back in, the travel and feel are just as you left them. The HW57 also uses Weihrauch’s automatic safety, which pops out of the left side of the action right at the rear, waiting to be disengaged by your thumb when you’re ready to fire.
Being an under- lever, there’s naturally a lot of weight out front compared to a break- barrel and Weihrauch took this further when they recently increased the diameter of the barrel to 15mm. I was optimistic that this might bestow some of the soft- shooting characteristics that made its big brother, the HW77, such a success. Shooting from the bench, I got consistent ½” groups at 30 yards with the Air Arms Diablo Field .22 pellet. I was able to do this with little effort, and my springer shooting skills wear a good coating of rust. Some spring noise was evident, but the firing cycle was quite soft for such a light rifle.
One old shooting pal had told me that the HW57 wasn’t as popular as it should be because it couldn’t make enough power, but my chronograph said differently. Again, with the Air Arms pellet, I got an average of 577fps, which equates to 11.7 ft.lbs – plenty powerful enough for hunting or perhaps hunter field target competitions in .177.
I’m really glad that I had the chance to try this less well- known Weihrauch. It’s not overly heavy or bulky, so makes a good case as the choice for women, lightly built men and fast- growing teenagers who want an accurate and solidly built rifle. It is indeed easy to shoot accurately, and that superb Rekord trigger delivers controlled shot release in the most precise way, once adjusted to your taste. Perhaps it’s time this unheralded rifle took its place in the spotlight beside its better known stablemates because it has a great deal to be proud of.
BELOW: It’s a handsome rifle and easily mistaken for its HW77 stablemate
ABOVE: The modest weight makes off-hand shots less tiring
TOP RIGHT: Weihrauch chose an unusual combination of chequering and stippling
ABOVE RIGHT: There are few better triggers than this one
TOP LEFT: The pop-up pellet loader is safe and easy to use
ABOVE LEFT: The fore sight assembly also holds the underlever closed